Monday, June 30, 2008
And Lapham's Quarterly, too.
Friday, June 27, 2008
The question for Marjorie seems to be should she buy ethically raised and produced local meat that isn't kosher technically but feels kosher emotionally? Or, should she buy meat that's technically kosher and ethically produced but whose cost is virtually prohibitive for anything but an annual brisket?
Here's a quote:
"Some friends of mine are starting a share in a cow. Someone knows a farmer. The farmer’s cow leads a pure life, injected with far fewer chemicals than most of our major-league ballplayers. The cow will be killed painlessly, but not by a shochet. Do I want in? I think the last unkosher beef I ate was a Ball Park Frank at a Pawtucket Red Sox game when I was 6. But sometimes I think: If kosher is unkosher, why not go ethical? If I make the effort with fruits and vegetables, why not with meat? And if not now, when?
On the other other hand, I do understand what most Orthodox authorities are saying: Kashrut is entirely separate from oshek, the oppression of workers that Judaism forbids. And a cow staggering around with a slashed throat may have been killed within the letter of the law. The reason for kashrut, they say, is because God said to do it. Period. Ours is not to reason why. And yet I do."I read that and thought, "Hmmm, there are all sorts of thing that either God says or the rabbis say God says not to do that many progressive Jews do, or don't do, as the case may be. Many progressive Jews don't pray three times a day. Many are gay. Many use electricity on the sabbath or wear shorts and tank tops on a hot day. We pick and choose all the time. So what is it about kosher that's so different?
It's not that I don't get the dilemma. I don't keep kosher, but I don't buy pork chops because I don't want my kids to think it's OK to eat them home. Out? You choose. That's how I was raised. Kosher in the house, not-so-kosher outside of it. And from where, or, more accurately, how I sit, that, while apparently crazy, actually makes (some) sense. Because I take the laws of kashrut to be an expression of difference. This is what "we" eat; this is what "we" won't eat. Like it, lump it, discuss.
After all, Jews have lived in diasporic communities for thousands of years. During all those years, what they chose to eat and how they chose to begin and end their meals were ways to maintain a sense of distinction from the culture at large in which they lived.
Because food is sustaining, but it's also differentiating. We make choices all the time about when, how, what and where we'll eat. Those choices are defining. I don't eat at McDonalds. I shops at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's (coffee), Farm Markets and Fairway. Didn't you run into me there last week?
Beyond food allergies and preferences, food choices reflect who we are in the world and with whom we identify. If you're going to eat according to rules, should they be the rules of the mostly seasonal, preferably organic and primarily locavore or the Jew? If you choose the former and you're a Jew, what separates you from anyone else of any other faith commitment? How does what you eat reflect your identity as a Jew, an identity you might wish to share with your children, if it doesn't comply with Jewish law? If as a Jew you/I don't choose kosher meat, are we all just melting into a great pot of progressive, if sometimes cranky, leftiness? You know: Peace Now, Barak Obama, and grass-fed beef!
In my own home, as I said, I've decided not to keep kosher. If I buy meat, it's only the gently raised kind. But that only solves the question of dinner. It doesn't begin to address the much bigger issues of identity, community, or difference. In spite of her kosher dilemma, Marjorie seems to have got that stuff covered. Me? To quote her: "I dither."
Thursday, June 26, 2008
So I mostly have much better skin than ever before, but sometimes I look silly. A reasonable trade-off, don't you think?
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Update: I spoke to Melissa about the recipe. Apparently, baking soda is typically used to offset something "acidic, like brown sugar." OK! So brown sugar is acidic! This recipe calls for more white sugar (1/2 cup) than brown (1/3 cup). In my favorite recipe, there's more brown sugar than white, and there maybe be a 1/2 tsp each of baking powder and soda, but I have to check that. All this to say Melissa says I could "absolutely" try the same recipe with soda and see what happens. My husband thinks I should just stick with my favorite recipe, but where's the fun in that?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Now, you'd think this is a gimme. That oh sure that's not so hard to not clean the living room. But just yesterday, after I'd read -- and ranted about - the Tsing Lo article, I asked my husband to take my kids to a birthday party because I needed to work. When they left, I looked around the apartment, and I'm no neat freak, but I had to squash down the extremely strong instinct to clean up before I sat down to work by quoting the closing line of Tsing Loh's Atlantic piece, "You can have it all, if you think like a man." So, I did. I sat down and I worked and I let the mess sit, but it wasn't a gimme.
Now, I could go into how weird it is that it's so important for people --and now for me--to have a relatively neat house, but I won't. Because just like there's a time to stop cleaning, there's a time to stop wondering about how important it is to clean, and that time, is now. Maybe I'll think about it more later. What do you think?
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Is it also bad that I can't stand it when people call Barak Obama "Barry"? I know he used to call himself that, and I know that public figures all get dumb nicknames in the press, but Barry? The man is not a dentist!
Finally, I can say this with 100 percent confidence. It is bad that Antonia was knocked off Top Chef last night, and the sulky, pouty, gloaty, she-had-to-cover-her-mouth-to-keep-from-smiling- on-camera-when-she-wasn't-sent-home-and-then-no-one-
congratulated-her-and-she-was-pissed Lisa stayed.
That was rally bad.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Writing this now brings me back to an argument I had in a discussion group my first week of graduate school. (In a past life I was a doctoral student in Biblical Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School.) A fellow student, South Asian woman, whose name I don't think I knew then, argued with not a little force that white women in this country have more power than men of color because they're white. This kind of comparison made me peevish -- frankly, it still does. Because by power, what exactly did she mean? I could go through a list of places where power plays out -- boardrooms, bedrooms, universities, speeches -- and none of it would matter. I happen to think that women in leadership positions aren't taken as seriously as men in this country, no matter their color.
But I also think that when you're talking about government leaders, corporate leaders, policy makers and big think kind of people, it almost doesn't matter. Yes, racism and sexism are deeply ingrained in our culture and ourselves. But someone who ascends into a public leadership role has done something that many other people have not. White men have the absolute easiest time doing that, but everyone has to overcome something. People who take on these roles are driven individuals and the discussions of racism and sexism and which is a bigger barrier just get tiresome. They're both bad, OK? They both make life more difficult for everyone. They both sap our public life of talent and opportunity. Can we all agree on that? Can we all agree to try to do better? Good. Let's sing!
Now, having written more about politics than I meant to and less than I should have given my chosen topic, I'll move on to what I was going to write about in this post: The food I ate in graduate school. I was inspired by this when I checked out a link from Jenny Davidson's blog to this blog. Looking over the latter post, I got all nostalgic for the really sad foods I ate as a grad student. Ramen, of course. I also ate something called "Pasta Stew" which was a devolving riff on a recipe from the New York Times that P.'s mom had ripped out and mailed her. It involved vegetables and pasta and oil and parmesan cheese and stock from the pasta, and I loved it, but, objectively speaking, it was gross. My friend N. would always mix her salsa with cottage cheese, which i thought was crazy delicious but once I dropped out of grad school, it didn't occur to me to do that again until I got pregnant and had to eat, like, buckets of protein every day. Finally, I now remember that it was only after I dropped out of grad school that I became interested in cooking. My friendship with Melissa flowered then, she taught me an awful lot about hands on cooking (my own mom taught me a lot about watching someone else cook; she is a masterful cook, my mother, but when it comes to how she is in the kitchen, C is for cooking and controlling), and I gave myself 10 years to learn to make better food. I bet if I tried that vegetable pasta stew now, it'd be a good bit less disgusting. If only I could find the recipe...
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Can't you see it? There's Trevor with the fish knife and I'm in the kitchen shaping my bread dough into a loaf for its second rising. Georgie, Trevor's sister, is feeding the rabbits, the baby is napping and my husband is off somewhere doing husbandly things while the sheets dry in the good strong spring breeze.
Now, I'm off to clean up the play dough and pack the bags of Puffins for snack. The apples are peeled, the strawberries sliced and there's nothing left to do but wait for the TV show to end, dress the children and slather them in sunscreen. Is there a cookbook in this life?
Monday, June 2, 2008
That character is P. (It's appropriate to call her a character, because when one writes about someone, that someone is as much a character as a person -- actually a little bit more character than multi-dimensional human, which is sometimes an unhappy and always a confusing situation.) In any case, this post isn't actually about P. as much as it's about how adults who don't have kids relate to and view the actions of small children.
P. doesn't have children. She likes children, she's very playful with my kids and adores her nieces and nephews. However, when it comes to children in public places or how people with children in this city act with their own kids, she, like many, has some very firm opinions and preferences. Like, if you're at a restaurant having brunch with your kids, your kids shouldn't make loud noises. I say, sure. And I also say I'm sure most parents would agree with this ideal, but struggle with achieving it in reality.
Now, I've blogged before about how people in this city can be child-unfriendly. And I think adults in this country pretty much hate the inconveniences and disturbances caused by children, humans, under 5, even if they're similar disturbances to those other adults can create.
When I took an Amtrak train with my kids, grown men rolled their eyes, refused to move, and made rude jokes about us -- as if they themselves had never been small or as if the sounds from woman across the way yacking on her cell phone wasn't more disturbing than the noise my children made. A few weeks ago, I was walking alongside another woman and we were both pushing single strollers. A man approached us and, saying nothing, simply waved his hands so we would know our job was to separate and create a space for him. It was horribly rude (and I told him so). Would he have done the same thing if we'd been walking dogs? My bet is no.
This brings me to the subject of this post. So the other day I was at P.'s apartment with my daughter Helen. Helen had some flowers with her that we'd picked in the park, they included one a big marigold that we shouldn't have picked but did and why we did is a long story that's not relevant except for me to disclaim that it was reasonable to pick it. Anyway, towards the end of our visit, Helen, who is 3-1/2, started plucking orange petals off the flower and dropping them on P.'s rug. Granted, not ideal behavior, but not exactly the end of the world. But before I noticed what Helen was doing, I saw that P. was eying Helen with a funny look.
Now, before I go on, let me say that Helen adores P. and P. loves Helen. This is not abut their relationship. It's about how people perceive and categorize the actions of small children.
Back to my story. I notice P. watching Helen and I ask her if something is wrong. She says, "Nothing. I'm just wondering if those things (the flower petals) are going to stain my rug." I said no. I bundled up Helen and said we were going. We were laughing, but P. could tell I was annoyed and that's when she dared me to blog about this. (We'd been talking about my blog and what it's focus should be.) So, here's what I'd like to point out in this dare-post.
I would point out that if P. herself had bought some mums or dahlias or Gerber daisies and if those flowers had started to die and lose their petals on her rug, she wouldn't have worried about her rug getting stained. But people see small children doing things in a house and they assume that what they're doing will stain something, break something, mess things up. Because that's what small children do, right? They make messes that make stains.
Like the men on the Amtrak train who assumed my kids would be noisy and disturb them more than an adult on a cell phone; like the man on the street who assumed he could wave a small group of humans away with a flick of his wrist and not even a please or a thank you; like the people who think children in restaurants should always be seen and not heard and complain about it loudly to their companions, never mind that that woman at the table over there has a grating laugh or that that man over there is arguing loudly with his table mate; if children do something that's in the same category as what adults might do - make noise, make a mess -- it's worse. P. seemed to assume that because a child dropped the flower petals, the consequences would be childlike. Which is to say not just messy but stained. Because at least with adults you can have the fantasy of saying something about behavior that seems unacceptable. With children, there's no recourse. Besides, it's hard to control children and it's hard to talk about the ways that we wish adults would control them and the ways we think we would control them if only they were our kids.
I was wrong not to notice Helen plucking the flower petals sooner. It was a mistake not to ask her to stop and not to clean them up when we were leaving. But I wasn't mistaken that they wouldn't stain. Petals on the rug, whether they fall from a dying flower or a child's hand just lie there. It's just that an adult is ultimately responsible for and can control one, and the other, not so much.